Memorizing Speeches is a Big No-No
When we emphasize the importance of practicing to attendees of our Presentation Skills Training workshops, we hear the same question come up over and over: “What’s the best way to memorize my speech?” And our answer never changes: “You don’t.”
There are a number of reasons why we tell people memorizing speeches is a really bad idea and they all boil down to the same basic issue: Memorized presentations sound rehearsed.
The goal of any presentation is to be engaging. You want the audience to listen to what you’re saying and take action. How engaging and motivating do you consider a speaker who reads his speech word-for-word? Do these types of presentations leave you feeling excited? Inspired? Of course they don’t. And a rehearsed presentation doesn’t either.
Learn Public Speaking Skills Instead
A memorized speech has absolutely no personality. How can a speaker, so focused on remembering the words, truly engage with the audience? I don’t know about you, but I’d rather forget a hundred words than to disengage my audience. Once they’re gone, it’s very hard to get them back (and downright impossible when the only thing you have to say are the words you’ve memorized).
And memorized speeches don’t have the passionate or authentic delivery of a presentation given by someone who has presentation skills. The charismatic speakers you’ve had the pleasure of listening to? They didn’t memorize their presentations—they implemented expert presentation skills.
Here’s another big problem with trying to memorize speeches: The longer they are, the harder they are to memorize, and the more likely you’ll end up forgetting your speech. So the very reason you’ve memorized your presentation—so that you wouldn’t forget something—will end up be its undoing!
Memorization Versus Practice
So here’s what it boils down to: Memorizing your presentation is bad, but rehearsing is good. And while the more you practice the more you’ll find there are words and phrases you memorize because you’ve repeated them over and over, the two are not the same. Practice is about rehearsing how you will deliver your content: specific words you’ll use, the way you’ll say them, when you’ll pause, the gestures you’ll make; memorizing is about committing information to memory so you may recall it later. It would make sense to memorize a statistic to use in your presentation. It does not make sense to try to memorize a speech word-for-word.
If you must memorizing something, memorize only your opening and closing. These are the critical bookends that hold your presentation together, so you want to make sure the words you choose to reel your audience in and send them away with are spot on. The rest of your presentation should be guided only by bullet points that allow you to create a dialogue with your audience that they feel they’re a part of.
Public Speaking Isn’t Perfect
If the reason you want to memorize your speech is so that you won’t forget something, chances are pretty good you’ll end up doing exactly that. Plus it will be obvious to the audience that you’ve forgotten something because suddenly you’ll be at a complete loss for words. By developing strong business presentation skills instead, you’ll have the confidence of knowing that when a mistake happens in your presentation, you can handle it. (And no one but you will ever know.)
We’d love to hear your thoughts on memorizing versus practicing. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ and join the conversation there, or leave your feedback in the Comments section below.